ISLAND HOPPING in GERMANY

While international tourism to Germany is increasing, visitors rather stick to the clichés like beer and Lederhosen at Munich and a cruise on the river Mosel; or they hang out at the hip capital Berlin – instead of enjoying Island Hopping in Germany.

I guess that’s the reason why many people think Germany is landlocked. They don’t think about long coasts, two seas, and about 80 islands.

Beach on the German island of Borkum - inviting you to do some Island Hopping
I think this is not the first image that comes to mind when talking ’bout travelling Germany.

However, that’s exactly what Germany’s north has to offer – and many fascinating phenomenons like the tideland that comes with it. As a matter of fact, Germany’s shoreline is longer than the Portuguese one.

So what are you waiting for? Join me on my island hopping…in Germany!

Germany is divided into sixteen federal countries. Three of them are on the coast. Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are in the north and Lower Saxony is in the west. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is in the Baltic region and Lower Saxony’s shores border the north sea. Schleswig-Holstein, however, is nestled between both.

The Islands

Like I mentioned before, there are about 80 islands there and I cannot introduce them all. Therefore, I’ve had a concept, travelling from the east to the west and picked the following:

Fehmarn in the Baltic sea

Föhr as one of the five large North Frisian islands

Heligoland as supposedly Germany’s only deep-sea island

Neuwerk which does not only politically belong to the distant city of Hamburg, but can be reached walking

Borkum as one of the seven East Frisian islands – and Germany’s westernmost isle

On this map, you can see where exactly they are located:

Each of these islands represents precious culture and traditions, astonishing phenomenons, outstanding activities, beautiful sceneries, and well-preserved flora and fauna.

Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein lies on the base of the Jutland Peninsula between the north sea and the Baltic. Both waters are epicontinental seas and connected with the Atlantic ocean.
It is the northernmost of the 16 federal states of Germany with obviously, long beaches and many islands.

I’ve introduced three of them:

Fehmarn

Fehmarn is Germany’s third-largest island. In the times of Germany’s post-war division, it was the only Island in the Baltic sea belonging to the western part, the Federal Republic.

Renata Green in a Colza Field on the German island of Fehmarn. Especially  spring is perfect for some Island Hopping in Germany
A field of joy! Fehmarn is even more beautiful while the rapeseed is in full bloom. (Photo: Mimi Green)

In the south, the Fehmarnsundbrücke, the Fehmarn Sound Bridge, connects the island with the German mainland. It is almost one kilometer long and carrying road and rail.

Shrimps at the Aalkate restaurant on the island of Fehmarn, an island in the Baltic in Germany
If you are rather into hearty food, you won’t be starving on Fehmarn – don’t you worry.

In the north, at Puttgarden, lies the small harbor that connects Fehmarn with Rødby in Denmark by a very scenic ferry ride. By the way, also just a great joy roundtrip in itself.

Once on Fehmarn, you need to

  have breakfast or tea time at one of the cozy cafés in the remodeled barns
  visit the Waterbird Reserve Wallnau
  go on a ferry ride to Denmark
  visit an old windmill and learn about the island’s past rural life
  cycle on the 300 kilometers long bike lanes to the beautiful beaches

But there is much more to explore – as you can read in my post.

Föhr

There are five North Frisian islands scattered in the north sea off the coast of Schleswig-Holstein. One of them, Föhr, is Germany’s largest and most populated island with no land connection. You have to get there by ferry which even adds to the charm.

Cemetery at the village of Nieblum on the German island of Föhr - perfect for some Island Hopping on the North Frisian Islands of Germany
One of the most fascinating and beautiful traditions has been the Talking Gravestone, narrating about the deceased exciting life – often as a whale catcher.

There are various interesting and quirky phenomenons to experience on – or off – the island of Föhr like a hike into the tideland and paying the gray seals on a sandbar a visit.

Friesentorte on the German island of Föhr
How did the UNESCO miss out on putting the Friesentorte on their List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the delicious Frisian cake, consisting of a thin layer of plum puree and a generous glob of whipped cream, held together by two crunchy pieces of puff pastry?

Also, in summer, you can hike to the neighbor island Amrum. Like I said, in summer, since you have to cross a hip-deep tidal creek….and, believe me, you don’t want to do that during another season!

Once on Föhr, you need to

  go on a boat trip to the Halligs, the tiny, secluded islets scattered in the sea around North Frisia
  pay the old cemeteries a visit and try to figure out the life stories of the late whale catchers
  admire the art at the Museum der Westküste, the Museum Art of the West Coast
  awe at the gorgeous traditional architecture i. a. at the village of Nieblum
  spend the night under the stars in a Strandkorb, a hooded wicker beach chair.

But there is much more to explore – as you can read in my post.

Heligoland

 Gray Seals on Düne on the German Island of Heligoland -
To me, the number of seals on Düne’s beach was the highlight of my trip to Heligoland……

Heligoland is a tiny archipelago that long ago used to be Danish and British, but is, actually, as German as can be. In 1841, the poet Von Fallersleben wrote the National Anthem during his stay on the island.

However, today’s visitors to Heligoland can hardly imagine that at the end of  WWII, Germany’s supposedly only deepsea island was completely bombed out. For ten long years, it even was uninhabitable.

Bird on the German Island of Heligoland
….but I was also very impressed by the birds.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, today, Heligoland is one of Germany’s most popular island when it comes to a couple of relaxing days in a secluded spot.

Once on Heligoland, you need to

 pay the seals on the island of Düne a visit
 hike on the Oberland to the rock where the birds are nesting
 join an informative and gripping tour into the air raid shelter tunnels
eat Knieper, delicious crab claws
 do some duty-free shopping

But there is much more to explore – as you can read in my post.

Lower Saxony

In terms of the surface area, Lower Saxony is Germany’s second-largest federal country, however, it is somehow the country’s éminence grise. Although it does not get much international tourism, probably everybody around the globe knows Lower Saxony’s most prominent export hit, the Volkswagen, with the headquarter in Wolfsburg.

However, there is more important industry in Lower Saxony, and the annual fair Cebit was taking place at Lower Saxony’s capital Hannover till 2018 for a reason.

In Hannover, in the year 2000 also the World Exhibition Expo took place.

Another fun fact is the very tight connection between the British Royal House and the Welfs of Hannover.  Also, Princess Caroline of Monaco had married randy Welf Prince Ernst-August who for instance caused a scandal during the Expo when he peed against the Turkish pavilion – literally!

Obviously, all this is not necessarily a reason to put Lower Saxony on my list of unmissably tourist destinations. But the coastline is a valid one, respectively the Wadden Sea and the islands scattered there:
World’s largest Tideland stretches in the North-West of Europe from the Netherlands along Germany’s Westcoast all the way up to Denmark. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.

The Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park is a major part of this area and spreads over 1,335 square miles. It was established in 1986 and consists of the East Frisian Islands, mudflats, and salt marshes.

Neuwerk

Riders on the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea riding from the German Island of Neuwerk towards the mainland
While the tide is low, the island of Neuwerk can be reached riding or even walking – it’s only about ten miles from the mainland, after all.

Neuwerk is one of the many small islands scattered in World’s largest Wadden Sea. This area stretches in the North-West of Europe from the Netherlands along Germany all the way up to Denmark.

Neuwerk's Cemetery of the Nameless
The small, but quite touching Cemetery of the Nameless from 1319. Unidentified drowning victims used to be buried here.

It has a quirky status since it belongs to the city of Hamburg which is about 120 km further east. Neuwerk is basically a North German Gibraltar.

That it is an island that can be visited hiking makes it even more unusual.

So once you get there, chances are that you’ll have already the most exciting part behind you. However, there are further attractions you shouldn’t miss.

Once on Neuwerk, you need to

 A hike to Cuxhaven – unless you came here hiking and do want to get back the same day
 A hike to the uninhabited islet of Scharhörn, a spellbinding refuge for birds
 Enjoy a snack at one of the small farmhouses
 Get information on the wonders of the Wadden Sea at the information center Nationalpark-Haus
 Spend the night in a straw bed

But there is much more to explore – as you can read in my post.

Borkum

Beach on the German island of Borkum
There are beach areas where vacationers find colorful shelter from the sun and the breeze coming from the north sea.

The island of Borkum is one of the seven East Frisian Islands off the coast of Eastern Friesland. It is not only the largest, but also the westernmost isle. Therefore, Borkum is geographically actually closer to the Netherlands than to the German mainland.

Beach on the island of Borkum
Humans are not the only mammals that enjoy a vacation on the beaches of Borkum.

Parts of Borkum, as well as the adjacent tideland, form part of the Nationalpark Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer, Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park, hence listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.

Once on Borkum, you need to

✔ explore the island cycling on about 130 kilometers long bike lanes
 go on a coach tour to the seal sandbar
 pay the whale catcher cemetery and the old lighthouse a visit
 spend a day on the beach in a traditional Strandkorb, a hooded wicker chair, or in the dunes
 enjoy the view from the new lighthouse

But there is much more to explore – as you can read in my post.

So, you’re planning on adding a beach break to your next trip to Germany now? Then make sure to pin one of these pix for further reference:

Pinnable pictureNope, Germany is not landlocked - actually, the shoreline is longer than the Portuguese: There are two seas and about 80 islands, and I'm introducing the five most fascinating ones. So what are you waiting for? Join me on my island hopping...in Germany!
GERMAN ISLANDS
Pinnable picture Nope, Germany is not landlocked - actually, the shoreline is longer than the Portuguese: There are two seas and about 80 islands, and I'm introducing the five most fascinating ones. So what are you waiting for? Join me on my island hopping...in Germany!
GERMAN ISLANDS
Pinnable picture Nope, Germany is not landlocked - actually, the shoreline is longer than the Portuguese: There are two seas and about 80 islands, and I'm introducing the five most fascinating ones. So what are you waiting for? Join me on my island hopping...in Germany!
GERMAN ISLANDS

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28 Replies to “ISLAND HOPPING in GERMANY”

  1. So this is the introductory post. I think I've read most of your posts on each island. Changed my whole picture of Germany even as we went to the south and not Munich, Berlin or Frankfurt

  2. So true, that first photo is certainly not what we picture when mentioning Germany. Love that Friesentorte, by the way, looks delicious.
    Still, I think I'd go for Borkum. Spending time on the beach there would be nice, but I'd also try the cycling tour. If not for the whole 300 km, then for at least 10 or so.
    Thanks for this, didn't even know about this side of Germany. 🙂

    1. The stay on Borkum was really nice – I'm still overwhelmed by the size of the beaches: huuuuge!

  3. The only time I seen the coastline of Germany is from my 80+ flights between UK and Latvia in the last ten years. The beaches sure do like wide and yellow (not sure if they are golden) but they also look quite quiet in the summer months also, probably the same sort of British weather, too cold! 😀 But from the ground and on your post, there looks like some hidden gems here and defo worth checking out.

    1. I guess that's because they are so huge; they are never, ever packed since there is sooo much space. Well, too cold….in summer, it's up to 35 degrees celsius – then you need the Strandkorb to shelter from the sun.

  4. This is a great post and thank you so much for showing a different side of Germany. Like many, I had very typical impressions of Germany and none of them included beaches. I know the Portuguese coastline, so I can only imagine the German one. I have a new appreciation for the country. Thank you.

    1. That was my only intention: To show that it's not all mountains and that the other part is totally worth visiting. And research for my posts was a great excuse to spend some amazing weekends on those islands, too 😉

  5. I am very guilty of what you say, all of my trips so far to Germany have very much involved a few too many beers and not enough of the coast line. I love that you can reach the island of Neuwerk by walking or on horseback! That would be amazing to do.

    1. Don't worry, I think most people are guilty of that. Yes, the hike to Neuwerk is amazing, and they build a mobile bar on the tideland – so next time, you'll have your beer there.

  6. You got it right, when people say Germany, I absolutely do not picture islands or beaches; instead, I think of Berliner Dom and beautiful churches in Munich and more, completely landlocked. But this is a complete new picture of Germany that you have brought up. Starting from the Frisian islands to the places by the Baltic sea, places like Fohr, Heligoland, Neuwerk, Borkum, Fehmarn are completely new to me and I would love to include them in my Germany itinerary.

  7. What another fun German island. We love riding so would totally cycle around Fehmarn. Or course, we’d have to visit Fohr for Frisian cake. 🙂

    1. Yes, I personally find they make the best on Föhr. But maybe I could add a series on Frisian cake hopping….

  8. Wow what a beautiful place to explore. I love to cycle so I would love to explore this German island.

  9. What a unique thing to do – island hopping in Germany. I didn't even know these islands existed! Love your photos; must have been fun to see all the wildlife!

  10. I've been up to the North Sea in Germany, which isn't always the warmest even in summer. But I didn't realize Germany has all those islands or that you could even visit many of them. That's definitely getting off the beaten path in Germany!

    1. Yes, the weather – which can be very hot or quite cold even in summer – is the only weak point. It can be tropical, but you can never be sure.

  11. My teenage son and I absolutely adore Germany and we had planned another trip for this summer, but COVID…
    So many off the beaten track places for us to choose from in here !

    1. Once you can make it to Germany, you should definitely see (also) other stuff than those epitomes. The north is different, interesting – and quite peculiar 😉

  12. BRB, just planning my trip to Heligoland to see the seals! This is a great post, I honestly can’t believe people don’t talk about Germany’s islands more.

  13. I love your posts about the islands. I never think of Germany as having islands and they all look so fabulous. I think I can feel a plan coming on! Malta and Germany have an air corridor 😉

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